What Training Does a Sports Doctor Need? - Education & Requirements

Explore the degree and certification it takes to become a sports doctor. In this article, you can find out about the education, job duties, salary, and more to figure out whether or not this is the right career for you! Schools offering Kinesiology & Sport Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Occupation at a Glance

Sports medicine doctors work with patients by examining, managing and addressing the recovery stages of a sport-related injury. Some of the most common injuries that sports doctors treat are fractures, sprains, dislocations and strains. Check out the chart below for more information:

Degree RequiredDoctoral or professional degree
Education Field of StudyMedicine
Training Required Residency in sports medicine
Job DutiesPerform medical injections; work with athletes to improve performance and skill; evaluate sport related ailments; organize treatment plans
Certification/LicensureNational and state licensure required, optional board certification available
Average Salary (2019)$227,987 per year*
Job Outlook (2016-2026)13% growth (all physicians and surgeons)**

Sources: *Salary.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Sports Doctor Do?

Sports doctors actually have several branches of practice that include those in primary care, orthopedics, podiatry and chiropractics. These professionals treat musculoskeletal and medical problems for individuals. Sports doctors that work in orthopedics specialize in operative treatment and deal with issues such as tendonitis, cartilage injuries, dislocations, joint and bone infections, etc. A sports medicine podiatrist diagnoses and treats foot and ankle problems related to sports injuries. Yet, a sports doctor in primary care often focuses on issues that may include overuse injuries, stress fractures, eating disorders, exercise-induced asthma, etc. They all focus on the main purpose to deal with athletes by evaluating them, diagnosing an injury and treating it professionally and appropriately.

What Degree Is Required?

To become a general sports doctor, you will first need to obtain your bachelor's degree from an accredited university. After this, you will need to sit for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) as you go on to apply for medical school. Once you are admitted and start medical school, you will spend your first 2 years in laboratories and classrooms taking courses such as biochemistry, medical ethics, laws of governance, psychology, etc. During the last 2 years of medical school, you will go through rotations in hospitals and clinics under the supervision of another physician.

Upon graduating from medical school, you will be able to either take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to be licensed as an M.D. or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMPLEX-USA) to become a D.O. You will also need to attend a 3-year general residency program and then another 1-2 years specializing in sports medicine. Once you have finished your residency programs, you are eligible to take the sports medicine certification with The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP).

How Much Will I Earn?

Sports doctors earned an average of $227,987 per year as of 2019, according to Salary.com. Some doctors can work long hours, overnight shifts and irregular schedules. They often have to travel between clinics, hospitals, and may even be on-call for their patients or working establishments.

What Is the Job Outlook?

The job outlook for doctors in general is positive, with a 13% increase in employment opportunities expected between 2016 and 2026. The growing population and the elderly population is making an impact on the overall demand for physician services. Job prospects will also be good for the majority of graduates from U.S. medical schools as they are matched to their first residency after graduating. Additionally, those willing to work in rural and low-income-areas have a great chance of finding employment since these areas typically have difficulty obtaining physicians.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

There are quite a few related career options, such as becoming a dentist or an optometrist. Both of these positions require a professional degree; however, dentists focus on the care and management of a patient's teeth, while an optometrist examines, diagnoses, and treats eye and visual problems.

If you are interested in the sports side of being a sports doctor but want a more hands-on role, an athletic trainer or physical therapist may be other options. Athletic trainers only need a bachelor's degree, and they specialize in the deterrence, diagnosis, and treatment of individual's muscles, bone illnesses and injuries. A physical therapist needs a doctoral degree and has the job of helping patients that are injured or ill by improving their movement and assisting them in managing their physical pain.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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